Second Sunday of Advent.—On the Virtue of Hope.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Second Sunday of Advent.—On the Virtue of Hope.
“Now the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in Hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. xv. 13.)
During the time of Advent, we have to prepare ourselves for worthily and profitably celebrating the approaching Festival of Christmas, wherein we commemorate the first coming of our blessed Lord, when, in quality of our Redeemer, He came “to seek and to save the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel.”
POINT I. We must fear God.
To guide and assist us in this preparation, the Church directs our attention, on the First Sunday of Advent, to the terrible judgments of God, which, at the last day, or the second coming of Christ, will be executed severely and eternally upon impenitent sinners: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Mt. xxv. 41.) And thus we are led to the fear of God, which, according to the Council of Trent, is the first step in the sinner’s conversion to God. (Sess. 6, c. 6.) And it is the first step also in his preparation for Christmas.
POINT II. We must also hope in God.
But, on this Second Sunday of Advent, it would seem to be the intention of the Church to lead you on, through this salutary fear of God’s judgments, to the consideration of His Mercy and Goodness; that so you may be raised to a firm hope that He will be propitious to you for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer. This hope, according to the same Council, is the second step in the sinner’s conversion to God; and it is the second also in his preparation for Christmas.
God has revealed to us, in the book of Ecclesiasticus (ii. 9), that this is the sure way of escaping His severe judgments, and of drawing down upon us the consoling effects of His mercy: “Ye that fear the Lord,” He says, “hope in Him, and mercy shall come to you for your delight.” May “the God of hope,” therefore, from the riches of His mercy and goodness infuse bountifully into your souls this necessary, this saving virtue; “that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost.”
We will consider now the powerful motives, which urge us to place all our hope in God; and also the qualities, which our hope should have.
POINT III. Why we must hope in God.
Hope is a theological virtue, which “helps us to expect, with confidence, that God will give us all things necessary for our salvation, if, on our part, we do what He requires of us.” (Catec.) This virtue is of strict obligation — it is absolutely necessary for us, as a means of salvation, and it is grounded on the most solid foundation.
For we have every motive to induce us to hope in God — to place an unlimited confidence in His mercy and goodness.
1. We have the pressing Exhortations, or rather, Commands of God: “Trust in Him, all ye congregation of people: …. God is our helper for ever.” (Ps. lxi. 9.) “Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart; and lean not upon thine own prudence.” (Prov. iii. 5.) “And hope in God always.” (Osee xii. 6.) “Casting all your care upon Him, for He hath care of you.” (1 Pet. v. 7.)
2. We have also the infallible promises of God, whereby He has pledged Himself to reward those who “cast all their care upon Him.” For He says “Because he hath hoped in Me, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he hath known My Name.” (Ps. xc. 14.) And consequently He declares, that “Blessed is the man whose trust is in the Name of the Lord.” (Ps. xxxix. 5.) “Do not, therefore, lose confidence,” He says, “which hath a great reward,” (Heb. x. 35.)
We read in the Gospel, that our Lord attributed many of the miracles which He wrought, solely to the great confidence with which the petition for cure was presented to Him. Thus, He said to the centurion: “As thou hast believed, so be it done to thee.” (Mt. viii. 13.) In like manner, to the blind men, He said: “According to your faith” (that is, your confidence), “be it done unto you.” (Mt. ix. 29.). The woman, who, for twelve years, had been labouring under an infirmity, which, during that period, had been incurable, “said within herself: If I shall touch only the hem of His garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter; thy faith (that is, thy confidence) hath made thee whole.” (Mt. ix. 20.)
3. Other motives of confidence are the great Love of God towards us, — His infinite goodness and mercy in our regard, — and (lest our past sins should weaken our hope) the infinite merits of Christ, which more than supply for our unworthiness.
These are the powerful and solid motives, which should excite our confidence in God — the sure grounds whereon our hope is founded.
POINT IV. How we must hope in God.
And resting, as it does, on sure grounds, it follows, that our hope should be firm and unlimited.
1. FIRM. — It should be firm, because the goodness, power, and promises of God leave no room for the least diffidence. And hence St. Paul calls this virtue: “The anchor of the soul, sure and firm” (Heb. vi. 19); it being impossible that God should want either the power, or the will, to assist them that trust in Him; or, that He should be untrue to His promises.
2. UNLIMITED. — Our hope must also be unlimited; that is, we should hope for ALL that we need, both for soul and body — we should hope for eternal happiness, and for all the means necessary for obtaining it, if only, on our part, we will do what God requires from us. And nothing should make us lose our confidence in God. “For He hath said: I will not leave thee; neither will I forsake thee: So that we may confidently say The Lord is my helper.” (Heb. xiii. 5, 6.) And He positively assures us that “He will not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able” (to resist); “but that He will make with temptation issue, that we may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. x. 13.) He declares, indeed, that “the hope of the wicked shall perish” (Prov. x. 28); but this is to be understood of such only, as will not have recourse to His mercy.
Examine now, my Brethren, whether your hope is such as it ought to be. Is it not weak and languishing? When attacked by temptations, or oppressed with misfortunes, do you not immediately, “lose confidence,” and become dejected and “sorrowful, even as others who have no hope”? (1 Thes. iv. 12.)
By commanding you to pray for salvation, for help in temptations, for pardon, for daily bread, and for all that you stand in need of, God thereby engages Himself to grant these things; and He will grant them, according to His repeated promises, if you pray with an entire confidence in Him, grounding that confidence on His infinite goodness and promises, through the infinite merits of Jesus Christ.
Never fail, therefore, to have immediate recourse to God, with a firm and unlimited hope, in your difficulties, dangers, and temptations, and in all your necessities.
On all occasions, cast yourselves confidently upon Him, for He will not withdraw that you may be left to fall. And let it not weaken or diminish your hope, when He appears to defer the help you crave, or if it should seem to you that He even positively refuses your requests. For He is then only trying your faith, as He tried the Chananean woman, whose faith, or firm, unlimited hope, He afterwards admired and rewarded: “O woman, great is thy faith: be it done unto thee as thou wilt.” (Mt. xv. 28.) “Do not therefore lose your confidence, which hath a great reward” (Heb. x. 35); but “hope in your God always” (Osee xii. 6); because “mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord” (Ps. xxxi. 10); for “no one hath hoped in Him, and been confounded.” (Eccli. ii. 11.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
Of Humble Submission.
I. Make no great account who is for thee or against thee; but let it be thy business and thy care, that God may be with thee in everything that thou doest.
Have a good conscience, and God will sufficiently defend thee.
For he whom God will help, no man’s malice can hurt.
If thou canst but hold thy peace and suffer, thou shalt see without doubt that the Lord will help thee.
He knows the time and manner of delivering thee, and therefore thou must resign thyself to him.
It belongs to God to help and to deliver us from all confusion.
Oftentimes it is very profitable for the keeping us in greater humility, that others know and reprehend our faults.—Thomas à Kempis—Imitation of Christ Bk II, Ch II, pt. I.
Virtues to practice: Conformity to the will of God, divine love.
Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come!
Hymn from the Office of Lauds for Advent
The solemn voice of the Precursor is heard, explaining the obscurity of the ancient figures; let our slumbers cease; Jesus is rising on our horizon.
Let the sluggish soul now rise, and stay no more upon this earth; a new star is shining, which will take all sin away.
Lo! the Lamb is sent to forgive us freely our debt; let us unite in tears and prayers, that we may obtain pardon.
That when He comes the second time, filling the world with fear, He may not have to punish us for our sins, but may protect us in mercy.
Power, honour, praise, and glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Paraclete, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers from the Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for Advent
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Almighty Lord and God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, let thy powerful grace so conduct us through it, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to the rules of thy heavenly justice, and tend to the observance of thy holy law. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Lord God, and King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to rule and sanctify, to direct and govern our souls and bodies, our senses, words, and actions in conformity to Thy law, and strict obedience to Thy commands; that by the help of Thy grace, O Saviour of the world! we may be fenced and freed from all evils. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
V. O Lord God of hosts, come and deliver us.
R. Show Thy face, and we shall be saved.
V. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
R. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from Thee.
V. The Lord shall rise upon thee, O Jerusalem!
R. And His glory shall be seen upon thee.
Bend Thine ear, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to our prayers, and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation; who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.
Novena for Advent
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! To hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)
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